This post is about one of the most popular subjects that come’s out with the weather, though often more so in the winter,  yes you might have guessed it vitamin D. 

Vitamin D

A hot subject at the current moment and one that really does get mentioned quite a lot within the clinic.

So what is vitamin D, how do we get it and how do we know it is deficient?

Vitamin D is a powerful nutrient with large effects and influences on the body, though unlike other vitamins functions more like a hormone, your body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. 

It’s responsible for the absorption of calcium, magnesium so vital in the maintenance of bone growth, strength and remodelling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts [1,2] vital for recovery from injuries. 

Other roles Vitamin D has in the body, include neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation [1,3,4].

You may be aware of vitamin D because of Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and often mentioned, it is recommended we need about 30 minutes exposure to the sun every day to produce enough vitamin D to keep us healthy. Often people substitute sun light for tanning beds,  but despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer states it is necessary to be prudent to limit exposure of skin to sunlight and UV radiation from tanning beds [5].

The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by certain foods though you cannot  get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food alone. The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays).

Most people do not realise they are at risk or deficient, symptoms are subtle, but they can have a huge effect on your quality of life and health.

Some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency reported are:

Getting sick often

Fatigue and tiredness

Bone and back pain

Depression

Wounds that don’t heal quickly

Bone loss- osteoporosis

Hair loss

However Nair, Rathish, and Arun Maseeh discussed “Vitamin D In the Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics [6] discussed the influence it has on:

Cancer

Heart disease

Hypertension

Obesity

Type 2 diabetes

Depression

Cognitive impairment

Parkinson’s disease

Fractures and falls

Autoimmune diseases

Influenza

Bacterial vaginosis

Pelvic floor disorders

Age-related macular regeneration

Six common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency are :

  • Having dark skin.
  • Elderly.
  • Overweight or obese.
  • Not eating much fish or dairy.
  • Always using sunscreen when going out.
  • Staying indoors.

If you consider the busy lifestyles we have its quite easy to not go out much during the daytime, to use facial creams and make up cosmetics with sun protection, you may get up early and get home late, maybe  you may only have indoor interests.

So how do we overcome this major health issue?

Firstly get out more though as mentioned prior though there is a delicate line between balancing the beneficial effects of sunlight exposure while avoiding its damaging effects. Physiological and geographical factors may reduce vitamin D synthesis, and supplementation may be necessary to achieve adequate vitamin D status for individuals at risk of deficiency. [7]

You can find some information and guidance on the vitamin council website. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

Some of the foods that contain vitamin D are :

Cheese

Egg yolks

Mushrooms

Cow’s milk

Liver

Red meats

Oily fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon

Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cereals, orange juice

For many people taking a vitamin D supplement may be the best way to ensure you have an adequate amount of vitamin D under instruction from you healthcare practitioner.

So how do we know we are vitamin D deficient? 

If you have health concerns and suspect you are vitamin D deficient then contact you doctor and request a blood test, alternatively if getting in to see your doctor is difficult or means a long waiting time you can pay for a home test kit which comes with guidance on how to measure you levels of vitamin D with advice to follow on from the results on what the results mean and how to work with them. 

At the weekend my wife and I were at the “Made In Manchester” event at the Bolton Arena, which was really good with great bands, including a few new Bolton based bands, however, it was a scorcher though later in the day the odd very light shower. I mention this because when the sun comes out in blazing temperatures it’s amazing how many people rush out to catch the rays. The outdoors and fresh air is one of the best remedies for our health, but it should be enjoyed all year round without burning ourselves, and trust me there were a few red bodies glowing. Simply ways to help our vitamin D levels can be as simple as Just getting off the bus a stop early, park the car a little further away, or simply walking to the local shop for the milk, all these can really help.
In Bolton, we are very lucky with some great parks and natural areas of beauty, so If you can plan a walk through the local park or up Rivington great, these can help get you moving, get outdoors and help our vitamin D levels.

So there you have it Vitamin D the sunshine vitamin. 

Here are a few references I used if you want to research vitamin a little more.

  1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
  2. Cranney C, Horsely T, O’Donnell S, Weiler H, Ooi D, Atkinson S, et al. Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 158 prepared by the University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02.0021. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E013. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2007.
  3. Holick MF. Vitamin D. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 10th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.
  4. Norman AW, Henry HH. Vitamin D. In: Bowman BA, Russell RM, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 9th ed. Washington DC: ILSI Press, 2006.
  5. International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: a systematic review. Int J Cancer 2006;120:1116-22.
  6. Nair, Rathish, and Arun Maseeh. “Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin.” Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics vol. 3,2 (2012): 118-26. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506
  7. Stalgis-Bilinski, K.L., Boyages, J., Salisbury, E.L., Dunstan, C.R., Henderson, S.I. & Talbot, P.L. 2011, “Burning daylight: balancing vitamin D requirements with sensible sun exposure”, The Medical journal of Australia, vol. 194, no. 7, pp. 345.

Here’s to the outdoors, where ever you are.. 

Francis Connor

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